Archive for Benefits

Splish Splash Water Park in Calverton, New York (Long Island)

Splish Splash Ride

Although I have lived on Long Island for about 6 years and have been spending summers out here ever since I started dating my husband (almost 15 years ago), this weekend was my first time at Splish Splash Water Park in Calverton, New York, and it was the kids’ first time at a water park. The kids had a blast and it was a great family fun day trip on Long Island. There are a few things we’d probably do differently next time we go so I thought I would share them with you.

We considered going to a water park on our Disney Social Media Moms trip but one of the water parks was closed and we ended up spending so much time in the other parks and at Sea World that we skipped it. So, we promised the kids we would check out Splish Splash when we were back on Long Island.

Splish Splash Ride

Parking and Tickets – Military Discount!

First thing you have to know is that you are going to be shelling out a lot of money. Read more

Pay Grade and BAH – Housing in the Military (Ask Molly)

From the Facebook Page:

New army wife planning for the first PCS not knowing where it is! How can I find what housing looks like or how many rooms you get for a family of 4? (E4) thank you to any help!!

Housing availability and quality varies widely from base to base. The best answer I can give is to look at what BAH is supposed to cover. Base housing should, in theory, be at least equivalent to that.

In any given location, BAH depends on the costs in your area (which is an unknown for this reader), your pay grade, and whether or not you have dependents (although the number of dependents does not matter).

According to About.com, rates are determined based on the costs of these types of housing for each pay grade:

BAH Calculations With Dependents

  • E-1 through E-4 – The midpoint between the average rental cost of a 2 bedroom apartment and a 2 bedroom townhouse.
  • E-5 – Average rental cost of a 2 bedroom townhouse.
  • E-6 – Average rental cost of a 3 bedroom townhouse.
  • E-7 – Average rental cost for a three-bedroom townhouse plus 36 percent of the cost difference between a townhouse and three-bedroom home.
  • E-8 -Average rental cost for a three-bedroom townhouse plus 75 percent of the cost difference between a townhouse and a three-bedroom home.
  • E-9 – Average rental cost of a three-bedroom home, plus 16 percent of the cost difference between a three-bedroom and four-bedroom home.
  • W-1 -Average rental cost for a three-bedroom townhouse plus 1 percent of the cost difference between a townhouse and a three-bedroom home.
  • W-2 -Average rental cost for a three-bedroom townhouse plus 52 percent of the cost difference between a townhouse and a three-bedroom home.
  • W-3 – Average rental cost for a three-bedroom home.
  • W-4 -Average rental cost for a three-bedroom home plus 22 percent of the cost difference between a three-bedroom home and a four-bedroom home.
  • W-5 -Average rental cost for a three-bedroom home plus 48 percent of the cost difference between a three-bedroom home and a four-bedroom home.
  • O-1E -Average rental cost for a three-bedroom townhouse plus 44 percent of the cost difference between a three-bedroom townhouse and a three bedroom home.
  • O-2E -Average rental cost for a three-bedroom townhouse plus 93 percent of the cost difference between a three-bedroom townhouse and a three bedroom home.
  • O-3E -Average rental cost for a three-bedroom townhouse plus 26 percent of the cost difference between a three-bedroom home and a four-bedroom home.
  • O-1 -Average rental cost for a two-bedroom townhouse plus 11 percent of the cost difference between a two-bedroom townhouse and a three-bedroom townhouse.
  • O-2 -Average rental cost for a two-bedroom townhouse plus 98 percent of the cost difference between a two-bedroom townhouse and a three-bedroom townhouse.
  • O-3 -Average rental cost of a three-bedroom townhouse plus 98 percent of the cost difference between a three-bedroom townhouse and a three-bedroom home.
  • O-4 -Average rental cost of a three-bedroom home plus 58 percent of the cost difference between a three-bedroom home and a four-bedroom home.
  • O-5 through O-7 – Average rental cost of a 4-bedroom home.

Of course, YMMV (your mileage may vary).

More information:

How about you, dear readers? Has BAH been enough to cover these types of housing? How has on-post housing stacked up compared with this chart?

Saving Money in the Military

While I am on a brief maternity leave, I am featuring guest posts, like this informative post from Michelle Dudas, author of www.militarywivessaving.com.

The recent near-shut down of the government highlighted the need for families to hope for the best and prepare for the worst.  Although active duty service members have good job security, pay checks and reimbursements sometimes go missing.  Everything is fixed eventually but in the meantime it is good to have an “emergency fund”.  And in this economy, many military families are budgeting for groceries and paying bills each month on one income – from Uncle Sam.

Unless you are debt free and don’t use credit cards, you may be struggling to find a way to pay for that pricey car repair, unexpectedly high utility bill, or even your kids’ school supplies. Here are some tips to help ease the crunch and put more money back into your bank account.

Shop at the Commissary and Exchange
One of the great perks that military spouses have is getting great discounts on brand-name items at their base Exchange, tax-free. Plus, if you compare apples to apples, the Exchange has lower prices than their off-post competitors. Even if you do find a cheaper price at a retailer off-base, take the ad into your Exchange and they will price match! And as for grocery shopping, shopping at the Commissary actually saves you about 30% or more than the local grocery stores! You can read more about savings at your Commissary by visiting Commissaries.com.

Become a Couponer
Already shop at the Exchange and Commissary? Do you use coupons? If not, you may want to rethink why you’re not using them. With Commissary prices so low compared to competitors, you can score dirt-cheap deals, or even free stuff, just by using coupons! The Commissary actually encourages the use of coupons, with their relationship with large companies such as Kraft and Unilever, just to name a few. These two companies work with the commissary and create coupons exclusive to military only {these coupons will state “military store only” on them}. Some Commissaries even have retailers sit up front and pass out their coupons, hoping you will use them! You can even use coupons at the Exchange as well – in fact, the Exchange allows you to “stack” your coupons {unlike the Commissary where it’s one coupon per item} for even more savings! On the AAFES Facebook page, they have a tab dedicated especially to their own in-store coupons, which they allow you to combine with a manufacturers coupon! You can read more about the Commissaries coupon policy Here, and you can check out the AAFES coupon policy Here.

Visit Frugal Blogs
Type in “frugal blogs” in Google, and you’ll get over one million results. Frugal blogs have gained enormous popularity in just the last few years, thanks to the downturn of the economy. Suddenly, it’s as if frugal living is the hip thing to do! There are blogs that cater to free things to ones that cater to discounted savings on top designer items. Some of my favorite blogs have coupon matchups with the weekly sales circulars, detailing what coupons I need and where I can find them. You can even get the coupon matchups for the Commissary and AAFES at my blog, MilitaryWivesSaving.com. Take notes on what stores have “free” products after store rewards and coupons, and print out the stores coupon policy in case you have issues when you present your coupons.

Make a List

It’s important to make a list of the things you need when you go shopping, otherwise, your chances of overspending are higher than they are when you buy what’s on your list. Making a list will help keep you on track, plus, it will save you time. Divide your list up between cold and dry items, and if you really know your way around a store, jot down the aisle number next to the item you need. And, before you head out to the store, be sure to “shop” in your pantry to make sure you don’t end up buying what you already have.

Have a Budget

Create a spreadsheet with Excel, or keep a notebook of your monthly budget. Start with your take-home pay each month, and then write down each bill you have to pay. If you get paid twice a month, jot down the bills you can pay with each paycheck. Once you have the bills squared away, allot yourself a monthly grocery allowance. It may even be worth it to withdraw that amount you have allowed yourself and put it on a pre-paid card, that way, you know you won’t be able to overspend when you go shopping.

Military Discounts
This is definitely one perk of military life that you’ll want to take advantage of. Several stores and restaurants offer military discounts, such as Lowe’s and the Home Depot {10% off purchases}, and even some car dealerships offer incentives as well, such as GM’s Military Discount. It doesn’t stop there, however. Some insurance companies offer military discounts, too, such as Geico and USAA. Do some research online to see if your favorite store offers a military discount, and even email them or give them a call. It doesn’t hurt to ask.

Childcare Discounts

With monetary assistance from NACCRRA {the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies}, you’ll be able to save significantly on daycare expenses. Look into their military program at their website Here, and find out if your daycare is partnered with NACCRRA, or call 1-800-424-2246. They do participate with on-post childcare, however, you may want to have a backup, as there can be a waitlist for on-post care. For married soldiers, the spouse must be working, looking for work, or attending school in order to be eligible for this program.

Collecting Unemployment
If you are a working military spouse and your husband has received orders to transfer to another duty station, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits because your decision to leave your job was not any fault of your own. You will need to check with your state’s unemployment agency to see if you may qualify. You’ll also need to apply and fill out a lengthy questionnaire as to why you quit and attach a copy of your notice-to-quit and spouses orders. If you are approved, depending on your states unemployment guidelines, you will need to show proof that you are looking for work each week.

About the Author:

Michelle Dudas is a military spouse and SAHM, as well as the author of www.militarywivessaving.com, where she helps her fellow military spouses save money and get the most bang for their buck. Before deciding to be a SAHM, she worked in the banking industry for over 10 years, where she worked as a loan officer and quality control coach.

Photo by o5com

Disney's a Dream for Military Families!

As one of the lucky bloggers invited by Disney to experience the Disney Dream Christening Cruise for media, I seized the opportunity to take a family vacation.

We added on days at Walt Disney World (and Sea World…shhh…don’t tell Mickey!) before and after the Disney Dream Christening and cruise and found a treasure trove of military discounts and benefits available for our servicemembers and their families as well as a lot of support for our troops and appreciation for the families that stand by them.

Where We Stayed – Hotels for Military at Disney World

Before Disney moved us into our pre-cruise room at the Polynesian, and on our return from the Disney Dream ship, we stayed at the gorgeous Shades of Green Armed Forces Recreation Center.

Regular room rates at Shades of Green start at $95, with accommodations comparable to a Deluxe Disney Hotel, like the Polynesian, which starts at $395.  If you move to Moderate Disney Hotels, those start at around $155.  Even Budget Disney accommodations start around $90.

And,  Shades of Green also regular offers special deals, including seasonal discounts and special discount packages for soldiers on R&R and veterans returning from tours of duty at OIF and OEF.  So, you might end up with Deluxe accommodations for the same price as a Budget hotel, or even less!

Mickey Mouse greeted us in the Shades of Green lobby.

At Shades of Green, you will find lovely grounds, featuring koi ponds where your children can feed the fish and watch ibis and cranes or race remote-control boats.

There are two sit-down restaurants, a cafe, an ice cream shop, a coffee stand, a snack spot, two heated outdoor pools, a gym, a golf course, a spa, laundry facilities, a P/X (AAFES) store, a gift shop, guest services for planning excursions, a ticket booth for Disney parks.

Check out this Mickey Mouse Waffle off the menu at Shades of Green–just $3.95!

Although not part of the Disney Resort system, Shades of Green is located within Walt Disney World (right next to the Polynesian) and there is regular shuttle service to the Disney transportation hub and monorail from the hotel’s cafe.

The military savings did not stop there!

Military Discounts on Disney Park Tickets

The best deal of all was the discount on the tickets to Walt Disney World:

  • Disney 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets with Park Hopper Option for $138 each, plus tax
  • Disney 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets with Water Parks Fun and More Option for $138 each, plus tax AND
  • Disney 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets with Park Hopper and Water Parks Fun and More Options for $165 each, plus tax

A regular four-day pass for an adult, with Park Hopper Option, is $286.  You will still also save on children 3-9 and children under 3 are free.

With our Park Hopper passes in hand we:

Toured The Magic Kingdom in the rain–NO LINES!

Rode a magic carpet and a flying elephant!

Drove a race car!

Chatted with pixies!

At Animal Kingdom we:

Balanced with the flamingos at Animal Kingdom!

Talked with the animals!

Back in the Magic Kingdom at night we:

Gave Mickey Mouse a hug and kiss!

Roped a few bad guys with Woody and Jesse.

Were wowed by the Electric Light Parade.


Saw the fireworks at the Castle!

Then…at Disney Hollywood Studios we:

Climbed aboard a giant ant.

Posed with some friendly cars…

…then watched stunt cars jump, crash, and explode!

Became apprenticed to a powerful sorcerer!

And saw so many live shows with our favorite Disney characters and stories!!!

After a full day at Sea World (FREE! …more in another post…), we headed over to Epcot and:

Visited “Norway”, where we were treated like royalty and…

…banqueted with princesses!

And even got a kiss from Snow White!

Pixie light guided us back to our beds, where we dreamed of adventures for another day!

Disclaimer: My flight to Orlando, our family’s room at the Polynesian, and my cruise fare, as well as a bunch of other swag so generous it made my head spin, was on the tab of the handsomest mouse in the world and his friends at Disney Cruise Line. Most of the services, amenities, and other entertainment mentioned in this post were paid for by me and the handsomest soldier in the world, my husband. All opinions are my own.

Free Sittercity Membership for All Military Families and Everyone Else Can Save Up to $20

Find the best local babysitters at Sittercity.comSeveral years ago, I received a free Sittercity membership to review on Mamanista.com and I appreciated the convenience so much that we have since renewed several times on our own dime.

Now, servicemembers of the Army, Marines, Navy and Air Force (active, reserve or guard) and their families now have a Free Membership to Sittercity to help them find the perfect local caregiver for their family. The Sittercity memberships are fully funded by the DoD.

Also, through this program, Sittercity is a national resource for you to find CDH/FCC certified, military subsidized or authorized access to an installation care providers.

This is an invaluable resource for our mobile military families and I am thrilled to share it with you.

Military Families Click HERE to register for your Free Membership to Sittercity

Everyone else — Need a babysitter? Click here and receive a discount up to $20 with promo coupon code SITTERSAVE at Sittercity.com.

Reason to Join: Save Your Wife’s Life

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military-health-insurance-wife-cancerA man has joined the military to get health insurance for his wife’s battle against cancer (found via Mom Logic).

People join the military for a lot of reasons and I think health insurance is certainly a valid one.

I want to wish this family better health and better times.  Here’s a beautiful quote:

“Seventy percent of the reason is for the insurance,” said Bill’s mother, Marguerite Hemiller. “He told me, ‘I’ve always wanted to do something for my country and I have to help Michelle.'”

Now that Bill Caudle and his wife are part of our family, I wonder if there is a way we can reach out to them and support them?

Post-9/11 GI Bill

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GIBillLogo-cropAre your spouses taking advantage of the post-9/11 GI Bill?

Part of the bill allows the servicemember to transfer the tuition benefits to family members.

In order to qualify, my husband needs to transfer the benefits and then complete an additional service requirement (beyond his initial commitment).  He already completed his initial active duty commitment and just finished his IRR requirement and now he has decided to stay on in the National Guard.  Mostly he is staying in the Guard because he enjoys being able to continue serving but the ability to transfer his educational benefits to our kids definitely helps, too.

What do you think of the post-9/11 Bill? Is your servicemember going to use it?

New GI Benefits Bill

If you haven’t already, check out the New GI Benefits Bill.

The new, increased benefits will be free to enroll (instead of the $1200 Captain Dad shelled out, which he ain’t getting back…grrr…). You are 100% eligible with 3 years of post 9/11 service, excluding service requirements from ROTC and service academies (check the link for full details).

Benefits will likely now be transferable to one dependent, but most likely that will not be retroactive, unfortunately for us.

Thoughts???